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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 15527


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (9:54 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

CRIMES (OVERSEAS) AMENDMENT BILL 2003

The purpose of this bill is to protect Australians who are sent overseas by, or in connection with the Commonwealth, by extending Australian criminal jurisdiction over Australians in certain situations. These situations would generally be humanitarian or security operations.

The bill aims to close the criminal law jurisdictional gap that currently exists for certain Australians with diplomatic and consular immunities, or with immunities that arise from a person's relationship with an international organisation.

The Crimes (Overseas) Act 1964 was passed in 1964 to extend certain Australian criminal laws to Australian civilians who were deployed to Cyprus with the United Nations Force.

The Act currently provides that certain Australian criminal laws apply to conduct committed by Australians (other than Australian Defence Force members) who are serving overseas under an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the United Nations and who have immunity from prosecution in the country in which the particular conduct in question occurred.

Over recent years, the Australian Government has deployed increasing numbers of Australian civilians on overseas operations.

The changing nature of these deployments means that the terms of the Crimes (Overseas) Act 1964 are no longer broad enough to protect many Australian civilians on overseas deployments, nor does it adequately address the jurisdictional gap that has been created by the granting of various immunities to Australians in foreign countries. At the moment there may be situations where Australians have been granted immunity from prosecution in the foreign country in which they are deployed, and there is no applicable Australian criminal jurisdiction. In this situation, Australians would be unable to be prosecuted for crimes which were committed in that foreign country.

The bill extends the operation of the Act so that Australian criminal jurisdiction will apply to Australian citizens and permanent residents in four situations.

Firstly, the bill will extend the Act to cover the jurisdictional gap that currently applies to Australians who have been granted diplomatic and consular immunities, or who have been granted immunities due to their relationship with an international organisation.

In situations where an Australian commits an offence for which he or she is immune in a foreign country, Australia may choose to waive the person's immunity to allow the foreign country to prosecute.

However, in situations where Australia does not waive the person's immunity, Australia is currently unable to exercise broad criminal jurisdiction over that person and prosecute most offences.

The bill will ensure that Australia is able to exercise criminal jurisdiction over Australians in such circumstances, and that such people are protected by the guarantees of the Australian judicial system.

However, the bill will not interfere with Australia's ability to waive immunity in situations where it is appropriate for the foreign country to prosecute the person.

Secondly, the bill will extend the operation of the Act over Australians who are in a foreign country under an agreement or arrangement between Australia and the United Nations (or an organ of the United Nations), or between Australia and a foreign country, where Australians who may have committed an offence are immune from prosecution in the foreign country for that offence.

The bill ensures that Australia can exercise criminal jurisdiction over Australians for such offences, which closes a current jurisdictional gap for Australian civilians deployed overseas in these circumstances.

Thirdly, the bill will extend the operation of the Act to Australians who are in a foreign country under an agreement or arrangement between Australia and the United Nations (or an organ of the United Nations), or between Australia and a foreign country, which has been declared by regulation to be a `declared agreement or arrangement' for the purposes of the Act.

The regulations may limit the extension of Australian criminal jurisdiction to a specified category or categories of persons.

This will ensure that in situations where Australia has sent civilians to another country in specified circumstances Australia will be able to exercise criminal jurisdiction.

This may usefully apply in situations where Australia has agreed with the host country that its own criminal jurisdiction will take priority over local jurisdiction, as is the case with the current Solomon Islands deployment. Where Australia is able to exercise jurisdiction over its civilian personnel, it may claim primary jurisdiction over an accused Australian, with the result that that person would be dealt with in the Australian criminal justice system, rather than by the local courts of the host country.

Currently, Australia is unable to exercise criminal jurisdiction in such circumstances, which may expose Australian civilian personnel to prosecution in local courts.

This regulation-making power would also enable Australia to comply with its obligations under forthcoming Air Security Officer Agreements, which generally require Australia to be able to exercise criminal jurisdiction over Air Security Officers in foreign countries.

Fourthly, the bill will extend the operation of the Act to Australians who are in a foreign country in connection with Commonwealth activities, where that foreign country has been prescribed by regulation to be a `declared foreign country'.

This enables Australian criminal jurisdiction to be extended in the absence of a relevant agreement or arrangement or in circumstances where it may be desirable to extend the operation of the Act to a broader range of Australians in the foreign country.

This may include Australian officers of international organisations, who have not been deployed by the Commonwealth, but who are working in association with Commonwealth activities.

The bill also allows Australian criminal jurisdiction to operate in part of a country only, which is desirable in situations where Australia is requested to assist in restoring stability to one part of a country or wishes to work only in a narrowly defined operational area.

Australia is involved with a number of overseas operations at this time. These deployments involve a large number of civilians.

While Australian jurisdiction over members of the Defence Force is addressed in other legislation, Australian civilian personnel, including members of the Australian Federal Police who are deployed by the Commonwealth may be vulnerable to prosecution by criminal justice systems that fall short of Australian standards.

The bill ensures that Australian civilian personnel deployed by the Commonwealth will be protected by the guarantees of the Australian judicial system.

The bill also ensures that various jurisdictional gaps over Australians serving overseas are covered.

The bill also resolves a technical problem with the current application of Australian criminal jurisdiction to persons to whom the Act applies.

The bill applies the substantive criminal law of the Jervis Bay Territory extraterritorially, which is the same approach as that adopted by the Crimes at Sea Act 2000.

The bill also allows regulations to be made with retrospective application to 1 July 2003 for three months following Royal Assent where those regulations prescribe a country to be a declared foreign country for the purposes of the Act.

This is to enable regulations to be made declaring Iraq and Solomon Islands to be declared foreign countries for the purposes of the Act with retrospective effect to 1 July 2003.

The extension of Australian criminal jurisdiction retrospectively—to 1 July 2003—over Australian civilians deployed to Iraq and Solomon Islands ensures that those civilians will be protected by the extension of Australian criminal jurisdiction over offences committed since 1 July 2003.

On 26 June 2003, I released a joint media statement with the Minister for Justice and Customs and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, stating that Australian criminal jurisdiction would be extended to Australian civilians serving in Iraq from 1 July 2003. The extension of Australian criminal jurisdiction, particularly to those personnel in Iraq and Solomon Islands will ensure that Australia is in the best position to protect Australians deployed to these countries. These amendments aim to ensure that in situations where Australian civilians may face prosecution for acts committed while they were on operations overseas, they face prosecution in Australian courts, under Australian criminal jurisdiction.

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TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 8) 2003

This bill makes amendments to the income tax law and other laws to give effect to several taxation measures.

Schedule 1 to this bill amends the imputation rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to ensure non-share dividends can be franked in the manner intended by Parliament. The amendments will ensure that entities can take into account expected profits when calculating if sufficient profits are available to frank a non-share dividend.

The amendments in Schedule 2 provide number of enhancements to the consolidation regime which will further clarify the cost setting rules and ensure that the income tax law that applies to head companies of consolidated groups also applies to the head companies of Multiple Entry Consolidated groups. In addition, this bill introduces rules to permit the transfer of any unapplied excess Franking Deficits Tax offset from joining entities to the head company.

These amendments have retrospective effect to 1 July 2002, which is the date of commencement of the consolidation regime. The amendments are beneficial to taxpayers or correct unintended outcomes. The amendments to address unintended outcomes are consistent with the original policy intent for the consolidation regime and therefore have the same commencement date as the consolidation regime.

Schedule 3 will provide an income tax deduction for taxpayers entering into certain types of conservation covenants with government entities. This is in addition to the existing deduction for taxpayers entering into eligible conservation covenants with deductible gift recipients and prescribed private funds.

The amendment will provide landholders with greater incentives to protect and manage their land for conservation purposes.

Schedule 4 to this bill amends the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986 to maintain alignment between the deemed depreciation rate used under the operating cost method for valuing a car fringe benefit and the rate used for depreciation purposes under the income tax provisions.

The amendments in Schedule 5 amend the gift provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to remove the requirement to have a winding up clause as part of the endorsement provisions for statutory bodies that are established by the Commonwealth Parliament in perpetuity.

Schedule 6 to this bill will make it easier for primary producers to determine if an entity is eligible to issue farm management deposits. The amendments also protect the tax status of certain pre-1 July 2003 deposits and transfers that were made in good faith with non-complying entities offering products described as farm management deposits.

Schedule 7 will amend the imputation rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to allow companies to offset a franking deficit tax liability against any future income tax liabilities. There are rules for both ordinary companies and life companies. These amendments are a further component of the simplified imputation system that commenced on 1 July 2002.

The rules will generally operate in a similar manner to the former franking deficit tax offsetting rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. However, a change as previously announced by the Government, is the replacement of the franking additional tax with a simplified penalty for over-franking. This penalty will apply to reduce a company's franking deficit tax offset entitlement against future income tax liabilities by 30% where there is over-franking.

Full details of the measures in this bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

I commend this bill.

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TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT (SUPERANNUATION CONTRIBUTIONS SPLITTING) BILL 2003

The bill makes consequential amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and the Superannuation Contributions Tax (Assessment and Collection) Act 1997 to provide for the tax consequences of the Government's election commitment to allow members to split both their personal and employer superannuation contributions with their spouse. The exact details of how the Splitting measure will operate will be specified under regulations.

Contribution splitting is a key element of the Government's superannuation reforms. It will assist families to maximise the benefits available in superannuation and provide an avenue for spouses to share their superannuation benefits. This is important for families with only one working spouse in the home or where one spouse receives a low income.

The splitting of superannuation contributions will benefit many families. It will particularly assist low income or non-working spouses to have superannuation assets under their own control and to have their own income in retirement. This measure is expected to benefit women in particular.

It will provide single income couples, including those not able to make voluntary contributions, with access to two eligible termination payments low-rate thresholds and two reasonable benefit limits in the same way as dual income families.

For taxation purposes the contributions which are split and paid to another fund or transferred to an account in the existing fund for a spouse will be considered an eligible termination payment roll-over. Also any surcharge liability that attaches to those contributions will remain with the splitting spouse (and generally will be payable by the superannuation provider that received the original contribution).

Ordered that further consideration of these bills be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.